For the past year and a half, Ward 2 residents have not been heard, said Francis Aranha.
He thinks that many issues the constituents face go unchecked, and, as a whole, those who live in the area are underrepresented.
Aranha wants that to be different.
He will be running to represent his neighbours in Ward 2 during Calgary’s 2021 municipal election.
“It’s time for a fresh face, and it’s time for change, somebody new to come in,” said Aranha.
“Someone ready to learn and represent the needs of the people.”
Fueled by a desire to give everyone a voice, Aranha said his decision to run came after seeing problems that his neighbours come across go unnoticed.
“We lacked representation for over one and a half years after the controversies that were set in at city hall,” he said in reference to current Ward 2 Coun. Joe Magliocca.
Coun. Magliocca has yet to announce whether or not he will seek another term in office.
Regardless of others’ intentions, Aranha wants to bring a change to both city hall policies and the way politicians conduct themselves.
“I feel that a lot of elected officials should act like public servants and just be a phone call away, which generally doesn’t happen,” he said.
“I want that to change.”
A New Diversity
Aranha was born in a rural community in India and grew up in Mumbai, where he graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management.
He has been in Calgary for the past 6 years, where he lives in the northwest community of Evanston with his wife and daughter.
But it hasn’t been easy for him.
After arriving in Calgary, he faced something many immigrants often face. They’re qualifications are not approved.
“I came down 15 years down the line,” Aranha said.
“And I had to start off that foundation all over again.”
He worked his way up from a janitor, to a dishwasher, and eventually he was promoted to a higher management position within a large catering company.
His experiences, both personal and professional, are something he thinks he can use to bring a unique aspect to city hall.
Aranha said he’d bring an immigrant’s perspective to council. It’s something he said we need more of.
“I feel there is good diversity in council but as a first-generation immigrant and understanding the system and knowing the hardships, knowing what others went through and getting into city hall, that’s going to be accurate,” said Aranha.
Referring to Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal, Aranha said that while they have given a lot to the city, they don’t understand issues the way new immigrants would.
“Yes, they (Coun. Chahal and Mayor Nenshi) have given back to the city, but they’ve not experienced those hardships firsthand,” he said.
“But I have experienced those; all those hardships.”
Prioritizing peoples’ problems
Rebuilding Calgary’s economy will be top of mind for Aranha during his bid for city hall. While there are several other issues he wants to focus on, he said that everything comes back to a successful economy.
“It’s really important to prioritize what we need to do now because our economy is shaken due to the pandemic,” he said.
“People are losing their hard-earned money and investments.”
Tax dollars need to be utilized in the best way possible added Aranha. Investing in more reliable transit systems will allow those who depend on it to get around to go to work and, in turn, put that money back into the system.
The money we spend here needs to stay here, he said.
Along with economic issues, Aranha wants to see Calgary’s youth and new graduates become more of a priority.
It goes hand in hand with the economy.
We’ve got a lot of young people here in Calgary who are unemployed said Aranha.
“A lot of these people are coming out of universities, finishing their education, and there is a one-year gap where they are unemployed,” he said.
This can lead to several issues including mental health problems, and that is something Aranha said he doesn’t want to see.
He said that while people say that some of these things are more of a provincial level or federal level government problem, city council must advocate citizens.
“I really understand the problems which people face at the grassroots level,” he said.
“If we address them, and if we help them, I think we could sort out a lot of these problems.”
Politics by passion
As someone who’s not a career politician, Aranha understands that there will be many things he has to learn, but he maintains that this is not a disadvantage.
“I think it’s an advantage,” he said. “Because it’s a blank slate and I’m going to learn from scratch.”
Aranha’s commitment to benefitting the community, empowering others, and bolstering the local economy is something he believes is enough to get him through the door come October.
“I feel as long as I have a vision and a passion to serve my people,” he said, “All it takes is me getting there and learning more about it.”